Koh Lipe- perfecting the art of doing nothing

Doing nothing is not as easy as you might think. It actually takes some practise. Luckily for us, we had two weeks on Koh Lipe to hone our skills, an island so small you can walk from one side to the other in around 20 minutes. The waters are as clear as anything you have seen on any postcard and the sand powder white. It’s an idyllic location that’s definitely already been ‘discovered’, but worth the time to get there.

Doing nothing is not as easy as you might think. It actually takes some practise. Luckily for us, we had two weeks on Koh Lipe to hone our skills, an island so small you can walk from one side to the other in around 20 minutes. The waters are as clear as anything you have seen on any postcard and the sand powder white. It’s an idyllic location that’s definitely already been ‘discovered’, but worth the time to get there.

We decided to take the speed boat down from Phi Phi to avoid spending nearly an entire day on the ferry. It’s still a good four hours and it’s a bit of a bumpy ride but definitely preferable to the stomach churning motion of the ferry on a windy day. Unfortunately it’s also not cheap so we agreed we’d find a more economical route for our trip back up to Koh Lanta.

We opted to stay near Sunset Beach, the quieter side of the island, at a cute little bungalow outfit called Jack’s Jungle. It’s small and laid back so if you’re looking for somewhere lively you’ll be better off elsewhere but it was perfect for us. The huts are in the jungle so they’re well shaded and stay fairly cool but are also prone to mosquitos as Richard unfortunately discovered. The only downside was the bed, which we were sure was actually polished marble with a sheet on top – after two weeks we were both longing for something softer.

Like I said, Koh Lipe is small – there’s not much of a ‘town’ to speak of, just a single street lined with the usual array of restaurants, internet cafes and tattoo parlours. Romsai seafoods was a particular favourite of ours – it’s not only one of the cheapest restaurants on the island but also makes the best curries and pad Thai we’ve tasted so far. If you’ve had enough of Thai food and fancy something Western then Spider Monkey is a good bet, but do be warned that Western food is expensive on Lipe and a pizza will set you back at least 200 baht. There’s also a great bakery which does the best doughnuts ever – the apple or custard ones are highly recommended!

Beachwise, Pattaya is the best for swimming, Sunrise the best for snorkelling and Sunset the best for, well, sunsets. We rented snorkels and saw some great sights mere metres from the beach including angel fish, black spined urchins and even a few clown fish (Nemo to those not briefed up on tropical fish). If you want to go further afield there are plenty of organised trips available but we decided to hold off until we hit Koh Lanta as the weather was a bit unpredictable. One day during a torrential storm we donned our macs and had an fantastic walk around the quieter beaches on the island enjoying the place completely to ourselves, awesome. You can see some pics of that day in the Thailand gallery ( viewpoint beach).

Our daily activities were steered by the weather – when it was fine there was swimming, snorkelling and sunbathing, when it was wet there were books, cards and films. We spent most of our afternoons at the Blue Tribes bar on Pattaya beach – the poor little puppy who couldn’t walk because he had been bitten by a snake was definitely a reason to keep returning. Luckily he had nearly fully recovered by the time we left and had three new four day old puppies for company as well.

Nightlife on Lipe is chilled – the usual beach bars playing a mix of Chilli Peppers and Bob Marley. Unfortunately James Blunt also seems to be a favourite but the less said about that the better. We did stumble across one hidden beach bar which looked like it might kick off a bit of a rave but sadly the complete lack of any customers put a bit of a dampener on that one. People just don’t go to Lipe to party – why would they when there’s Phi Phi and Koh Phangan a short hop away?

So, overall, a fairly uneventful but blissfully relaxing and chilled two weeks, which was just what we had planned and exactly what we needed to get out of ‘work mode’. Next stop, Koh Lanta, for Xmas by the beach with half of Sweden.

Koh Lipe – dogs and frogs

Just a quick post, we’re on Koh Lipe in a hut in the Jungle. Had a few days of torrential rain (see video below). Have also picked up a few pets along the way.

Just a quick post, we’re on Koh Lipe in a hut in the Jungle. Had a few days of torrential rain (see video below). Have also picked up a few pets along the way. Weather great today, we are working on our tans.

 

Repeat bathroom visitor number 1
Repeat bathroom visitor number 2

In case anybody asks, camera is a Canon Powershot G9 and they kindly posed long enough for me to work out how figure out how to take close-up shots. Giant millipede in sink, cute brown rat on toilet and leech on floor camera shy.

Snorkelling tomorrow.

Phi Phi – feral but fun

The infamous Phi Phi is a favourite amongst decades of backpackers. It offers turquoise warm waters, white powder sand and that small island feeling.

 

 

The infamous Phi Phi is a favourite amongst decades of backpackers – Rich first came here back in 1999. It offers turquoise warm waters, white powder sand and that small island feeling. It’s a one hour’s ferry from Railay, and a long-tail will take you from West Railay beach into the bay to transfer to the boat. Watching those with huge suitcases deal with the at-sea transfer is worth the trip alone.
Phi Phi itself is actually two islands – Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh – Don being the town, Leh a smaller island nearby that encloses the famous Maya bay (used in the film The Beach). Ao Ton Sai (town) is where most of the action happens, a busy, close-packed collection of resorts, guesthouses and huts, ranging from the dirt-cheap to the stupidly expensive. For those looking for a quieter life, other beaches around the circumference of the island offer retreats that offer a more ‘real’ beach experience. Most other beaches will need either a decent walk at low tide or a long-tail to get to, but they are worth the effort if Ao Ton Sai disappoints. Long Beach, a favourite of Rich’s years ago, now has a half-decent path, but it’s worth taking a long-tail if only because the waters on the journey are stunning.
There’s plenty to do, mainly diving, snorkelling, the usual vegetating on the beaches, or as it appears more recently, just hanging around and having a drink. We decided on coming through Phi Phi as it was en-route to Koh Lipe, and also to let off some steam after the manic few weeks of quitting our jobs, homes and starting this extended holiday.
We stayed in the centre of town at a place called The White, a typical flashpacker guesthouse, next door to D’s books, a great little coffee house with free WiFi and power sockets under the seats. You’ll be lucky to get a spot though as those with their own laptops tend to set up camp for hours at a time. The White was more expensive than our budget should have allowed, but we had already decided to allow ourselves a little extra money for the first month to give us time to get into the swing of things and also because we wanted to be somewhere comfortable for Christmas and New Year.

Phi Phi Stones Bar

We spent most of our time mooching round town, had a couple of big nights out and worked our way through some of the local dishes. If you’re looking for somewhere to drink, we’d recommend Stones Bar at the far end of the Ao Lo Dalam beach and Bohemian Bar on the other side of the island. 

 There are a few well-presented Swedish bars on the island but the music is just terrible, really, think Eurovision, Hanson and Britney Spears.
Food-wise, we drank many cups of tea (and the cheapest) at Breakers, as well as chowing down a decent breakfast. Western dishes and cheap pizza are plentiful at Calamaro’s, and the excellent Thai menu at Pum’s was offering a nine year anniversary deal, taking the prices back to those in 2001.

Phi Phi Thai food market

We also had a few meals in the Thai market, a few small stalls offering everything from street snacks through to full curries. We recommend spending some time in these joints, it’s cheap and good quality, just don’t get hung up over cleanliness. They may not look robust but we didn’t have any problems.
The weather wasn’t fantastic during our stay – it had been raining loads before we arrived so the waters were not at their clearest and we are leaving the snorkelling and day trips until we get to Koh Lanta when the visibility should have improved.
We cannot leave a post about Phi Phi without mentioning the nightlife. This is the main draw to Phi Phi these days, although the onslaught of thousands of young backpackers and holidays makers will surely cause outrage among the hedonistic old school travellers looking for the quiet life. At night, it gets quite mental. Fuelled by beer and buckets (a small beach bucket with a deadly mix of local spirits, coke and a strong caffeine drink – ฃ4),

The infamous ‘Bucket’

 hoards float from bar to bar with touts offering free shots and body paint. Once the bars wind down the streets fill with stalls offering end-of-night barbequed snacks. It’s a little full-moon party madness every night, but aside from the location it’s not that much different from any European party resort. You certainly can avoid it if you want on the quieter parts of the island. We indulged a couple of times and had a blast but that was more than enough for us and we were glad to be heading off the island after five days.
We leave Phi Phi heading to Koh Lipe. The seas are a bit rough so we’ve opted for a speedboat via Koh Lanta, our destination for Christmas. The total journey is about four hours, much faster than taking the ferry all the way but also more expensive so we’ll probably opt for the overland route on the way back. Koh Lipe should be a world away from Phi Phi, much quieter and laid back and our home for the next two weeks. Here’s to getting away from it all.